Juries simply fascinate us—like an uncle who is typically wise but occasionally demented. All in all, though, he’s the one we go to when we need advice.
Recently, a slew of material has flooded my way regarding juries, good and bad. And I could use your help.
I’ve been collaborating with an attorney on an article about cameras in the courtroom, and how they may affect jurors and other participants. We are covering a lot of ground, but it still would be nice to land on an insightful and local angle that illuminates the topic in new ways.
What do you think of cameras in the courtroom? And more specifically, what angle or hook would lead you to read a story that has percolated nationwide for decades?
Meanwhile, a colleague shared a dialogue he had heard regarding state laws that prohibit jurors from making money (from books or interviews) after a trial. The question arose during Florida’s prosecution of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s death. But after sitting through months of an Arizona trial of Jodi Arias, we wonder about the same thing here.
We are all accustomed to laws denying convicted people the opportunity to profit from their own stories. But restrictions on jurors are less often discussed; usually they come to light after major prosecutions, such as those against O. J. Simpson or the Menendez brothers. A recent story details what a Florida legislator proposed in the panhandle state. The law:
“would make it a third-degree felony for jurors to sell their stories within 270 days of serving on a jury. State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, said the law would also apply to media organizations who try to pay jurors for their stories. It would not prohibit jurors from speaking freely without compensation or payment.”
The news squib is here. So under the law jurors would be free to speak with the trial’s lawyers, but could not sell their stories. What do you think?
Meantime, you may recall the story of the judge who put a gag order on jury members, and it affected their speech, to anyone, whether or not for pay. The article was from way back in 1998, ancient history. But I do not know if the unique order, which was upheld by the Fifth Circuit, was ever overturned.
It is a curious idea, the one where judges feel the need to protect the nebulous “judicial system,” even if it infringes on First Amendment rights. How many jurors expect that a do-not-talk order will continue for days, months and years after a trial is complete?
(A more rare instance—in which a juror is retained as a trial consultant in a retrial of the original case—is discussed here. Also examined is what’s known as the Juror Integrity Act.)
Another article from the early 2000’s explains how a gag order was enforced until after the appeals. And it overtly affected both the media and the lawyers.
Both of these topics—cameras in the courtroom and juror speech—implicate substantial constitutional issues. When the right to free speech runs hard against the right to a fair trial, the second should win. But the facts may not be so bald, and judges and legislators must craft solutions that aid both.
Do those topics interest you? If so, what magazine story approach would cause you to say, “Wow. That’s surprising”?Follow @azatty